A mysterious “warm blob” in the Pacific Ocean could be the reason why US West coast states like California are experiencing their worst ever drought, a new study says. The blob in the ocean was discovered last year, with temperatures one to four degrees Celsius (two to seven degrees Fahrenheit) above surrounding ‘normal’ water, causing havoc to West Coast marine ecosystem and led species to seek refuge elsewhere. The blob extends about 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometers) offshore, from Mexico up to Alaska, and was 300 feet (90 meters) deep.
A study by the University of Washington found that a high-pressure ridge could be causing the blob, by trapping heat in the water. Dr. Nick Bond, a climate scientist at the University of Washington, coined the term ‘the blob’ in June. Researchers said it may have contributed to the state of Washington’s mild 2014 winter and might signal a warmer summer. It is still unclear how this area of warmer water has formed, or how long it will stay. One thing scientists can be studied is its effects. As air passes over warmer water and reaches the coast it brings more heat and less snow, which the scientists say helped cause current drought conditions in California, Oregon and Washington. Bond says all the models point to it continuing through the end of this year.
The new study explores the blob’s origins. It finds that it relates to a persistent high-pressure ridge that caused a calmer ocean during the past two winters, so less heat was lost to cold air above. The warmer temperatures we see now aren’t due to more heating, but less winter cooling. The researchers said that it might not only be causing warmer temperatures on the West coast, but also cooler temperatures on the East coast. It could also be playing a part in circulating cold and wet air to the central and eastern states of the US. The study also found the blob has an effect on marine life. Fish have been spotted in places where they normally belong and the warmer, less nutrient-rich water is disrupting the food web. FULL REPORT